Justice Thomas and the National Museum of African American History and Culture - The American Spectator | USA News and Politics
Justice Thomas and the National Museum of African American History and Culture


Recently a voice of the conservative media did what it is supposed to do, to wit: tell the rest of the story. The mainstream media tells America only part of the story. They tell us how they perceive the world and leave it at that. This is why so much of recent American journalism — and indeed history — is so unsatisfactory to sentient observers. Something seems to be left out. Journalism and history are told from the left’s point of view exclusively, and those of us who do not share the left’s point of view get the feeling that something is missing.

So raise a toast to the Washington Times­ — known in my circle as the Good Times — for telling the rest of the story. It did so again a few weeks back, when a reporter from the Times, Bradford Richardson, reported that the recently opened National Museum of African American History and Culture has hardly a word about the life of Justice Clarence Thomas in it. Justice Thurgood Marshall, the Supreme Court’s first black justice, is mentioned as is his role as an attorney in the Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, the groundbreaking 1954 case that triggered desegregation in schools across America. But the life of Justice Thomas, the Court’s second black and the first black to plot a conservative course, is not mentioned at all, save for one disturbing instance.

Justice Thomas’ name comes up in the museum’s display concerning the story of Anita Hill, the black lawyer who claimed she was sexually harassed by him while both worked at the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission back in the 1980s. Apparently she was not believed by the majority of the Senate because Thomas won confirmation and is now in his 25th year as one of the Court’s conservative stalwarts. Nonetheless, the museum has on display a button reading “I Believe Anita Hill.”  There is no pro-Thomas button or any pro-Thomas memorabilia.

When asked about this imbalance, pitting a disgruntled former employee against the second black to be raised to the Court, a spokesperson for the museum said, “We do not have plans to create an exhibition on Justice Clarence Thomas or any Supreme Court Justice as part of the museum’s exhibitions.” She went on to say that “the museum’s exhibitions are based on themes, not individuals.”

You see, the spreading civil rights movement of the post-World War II period that led to Justice Thomas and before him Justice Marshall being nominated to the Court was part of a theme. The theme included Anita Hill’s attempt to block Justice Thomas’ nomination along with Marshall’s role in Brown v. Board of Education. You will have to go down to the National Museum of African American History and Culture to learn what the rest of the theme includes. It could include almost anything (the Times mentions the Black Panthers and the recent Black Lives Matter movement), but it does not include the two justices’ elevation to the Court. I think it is part of the ongoing theme of the American left’s supposed domination of history. That is to say, the Left is represented by heroes, the Right is represented by flawed humanity. In truth, Justice Thomas is the hero.

Born in poverty, raised by a grandfather who deserves especial praise and climbing steadily as an independent thinker, Thomas has achieved about all one could ever expect of a citizen in a free society. His legal opinions show intelligence, independence, principle and originality. All are on display in his 2005 dissent, Kelo v. City of New London. In that case, the court’s majority ignored the meaning of the Constitution and granted a local government the right to seize an entire neighborhood for private development, despite the fact that the Fifth Amendment grants the government authority to take private property only for “public use.” Thomas said no. Justice Thomas has also written about his life from his earliest years in rustic Pin Point, Georgia, to our nation’s capital in a moving memoir, My Grandfather’s Son. It is one of the finest memoirs to come out of his generation. That book in itself should earn him a place in the National Museum of African American History and Culture.

Is there anything that can be done to redress this politicization of the American experience? Well, I just happen to have in my hands a list of the board members at the Smithsonian, which oversees the National Museum of African American History and Culture, and do you know who serves the Smithsonian Board as its chancellor? That would be the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court himself, John G. Roberts Jr. Surely Chief Justice Roberts could play a role in recognizing the achievements of Justice Thomas.

R. Emmett Tyrrell, Jr.
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R. Emmett Tyrrell, Jr. is the founder and editor in chief ofThe American Spectator. He is the author of The Death of Liberalism, published by Thomas Nelson Inc. His previous books include the New York Times bestseller Boy Clinton: The Political Biography; The Impeachment of William Jefferson Clinton; The Liberal Crack-Up; The Conservative Crack-Up; Public Nuisances; The Future that Doesn’t Work: Social Democracy’s Failure in Britain; Madame Hillary: The Dark Road to the White House; The Clinton Crack-Up; and After the Hangover: The Conservatives’ Road to Recovery. He makes frequent appearances on national television and is a nationally syndicated columnist, whose articles have appeared in the Wall Street Journal, New York Times, Los Angeles Times, Baltimore Sun, Washington Times, National Review, Harper’s, Commentary, The (London) Spectator, Le Figaro (Paris), and elsewhere. He is also a contributing editor to the New York Sun.
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